Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Thousands Gifts: Finding treasured moments

After reading this blog at A Holy Experience, I was challenged to think about the thousand gifts our family has shared this last week. The simple moments. The highlights. The gifts that were never put under the tree or wrapped in fancy paper. The places where something deep in our hearts was united with the reason we celebrate Christmas. The glimpses of heaven.

On Sunday night Ericlee and I drove my sister, Caron, and her kids, Gio and Sophia, back to the airport in San Jose. We put them on a plane to Seattle and mourned a bit to see them go. After a glorious week together, we traced the treasured moments. These are a few they mentioned and some we've added since then:

~Acting out the Christmas story at my brother Paul's house. Meilani was so serious about her role as Mary. Giada was dressed in angel wings standing arms-spread on a kitchen stool. Paul was Joseph using a black frilly scarf as his beard. Nana Maria kept insisting we sing Christmas carols. Gio, Sophia and Papa Doug were the wise guys. Cindy and Dorina baaaa-ed like the sheep. Michelle was Mary with child. Ericlee narrated in a dramatic voice.

~A grand Christmas Carol Fiesta. Paul and Michelle hosted 25 neighbors and friends. We sang our hearts out for the elderly people at a nearby convalescent home. One woman spread out her wrinkled arms to our girls, delighted to share a Christmas song with children. Complete joy.

~Caroling followed by tamales. A food tradition of a different culture adopted by our family this year. My mom ordered tamales from a family without regular work. They blessed us with marvelous morsels as we blessed them.

~Deep belly laughs as the adults play the game Buzz Word - turning phrases upside down and inside out.

~Making pita piatta with the family. A time to join the circle, continue the passing down of recipes through the generations, through food and the act of creating something wonderful together. Raisin-cinnamon-nut goodness. Warm from the oven. Giada spreading the cinnamon. Too much. Just right.

~Knitting with my niece. Our fingers dancing, flying across needles and skeins of yarn. Had to finish the Christmas orders so we could rest. Hats, headbands, fingerless gloves in all shapes and sizes. Laughing, teaching, sharing and crying. Done.

~Giada opening her first gift of Christmas morning - a Little People nativity set. "Jeeee-sus!" she squealed at the top of her lungs. And in that moment I felt it. Christ had come!

~Watching the Nativity movie. All the cousins, sisters and grandmas piled on our big red couch, still wearing our pajamas. Meilani was delighted to sit in the midst of her family. My sister cried when she saw Mary traveling, sacrificing, heavy on that donkey. We felt the awe of the moment when the star shone down and the child burst forth.

~Rolling out ravioli dough on Christmas afternoon. Caron, Gio and Sophia arguing about the best, most-efficient way to do it. Laughing together at our humanness. The epic project. Creating a new recipe with pumpkin-ricotta filling. Savoring each bite.

~Decorating gingerbread men. The little ones leading the brigade of sprinkles and wiggly lines of frosting. An old tradition made new.

~Taking ornaments from our Christmas tree and sharing them around the table after the Christmas meal. Each ornament represented a story, a country, a people. We prayed for the people celebrating Christmas in those lands. We prayed for those in need. We prayed for the world to find the Christmas Gift.

~A brisk walk with my sister through the neighborhood. A Salted caramel mocha at Whole Foods. A chance to pause, to mourn, to celebrate these months we've lived apart and faced our separate challenges. A chance to intertwine our journeys once again.

....a Thousand Gifts.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

December Gilmore Gazette: Gilmores Prepare for Haiti

Here's a copy of our new e-newsletter, which we will be sending out regularly to keep people updated on our move and mission work in Haiti. If you'd like to be on our list to get this in your email inbox, leave a comment below.

Dear Friends & Family,

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! We are starting a newsletter to help keep our closest circle of friends, family and supporters informed about our plans to serve in Haiti with Christian Friendship Ministries in 2011. We hope this will be a place where we can celebrate what God is doing in our family's life and through His ministry in Haiti. We also want to keep you informed about ways you can specifically pray for us and partner with us in connecting resources to Haiti.

We started this journey back in February when we really felt God nudging us to pursue this calling to go to Haiti for a longer period of time than just a few weeks each summer. The process has been important in preparing our hearts for mission work. We traveled to Haiti in August for two weeks with two teams to work on communications and put on a Vacation Bible School in the orphanage built by our church last fall. This trip also gave us an opportunity to meet with the Haitian leaders of Christian Friendship Ministries and talk through what we will do during our mission year in Haiti.

September was full of painful and powerful experiences as God has challenged us to downsize our possessions and live on a very tight budget. We have been reading and re-reading two important books: Francis Chan's CRAZY LOVE and Richard Stearns' THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL. Chan writes, "The concept of downsizing so that others might upgrade is biblical, beautiful...and nearly unheard of." We are reminded that it's easy to say we're not attached to our "stuff." It's entirely different thing to act on that conviction and truly simplify our American lives.

In October we officially put our Fresno home up on the market to sell. We were tempted to rent it out but we really feel God is asking us to take a step of faith and sell our home to be truly free of debt and attachments. Dorina's brother, Paul Lazo, is our real estate agent. We have had several agents and families come look at the house in the last month but we are still waiting on a buyer. It only takes one but we haven't had any offers yet.

On November 7, we ran the Two Cities Half Marathon in Fresno as a fundraiser. We were so blessed to be joined by 17 friends who ran/walked the 13.1 miles. Ericlee served as the coach for "Team Gilmore - Remember Haiti." We trained together for the last 12 weeks. Each week we met for workouts and a prayer time for Haiti. God really surprised us with the success of our first official fundraiser. The greatest part about it was being able to share our heart for Haiti with 127 sponsors, who pledged money toward our mission work in Haiti. We were so proud of the team members. Every last one of them crossed the finish line Sunday and many even achieved personal goals and records. The group raised more than $9,000.

Our departure date depends on the sale of our home and raising the remainder of our financial support for our year in Haiti. We estimate we will need $3,300 monthly (which includes are start-up costs) plus enough to buy a vehicle. We are very excited about many new monthly supporters as well as several one-time donations. We are about halfway to reaching our goal. Please continue to pray for God to provide the finances. We are willing to go as early as January 2011 but waiting for God's provision and direction. Our ministry partners in Haiti are eager for our arrival.

Ericlee is currently working part-time teaching as an adjunct at Fresno Pacific University in the Kinesiology department, DeVry university teaching Nutrition and coaching at Crossfit/S.P.E.E.D. gym. Dorina continues to provide childcare for two children (Nathanael Benedict & Mia Vasquez) in addition to caring for our two girls. Dorina's in the editing stage of her thesis and hopes to complete that before going to Haiti. Meilani started a home school kindergarten program this fall. She's an eager learner! Giada is 19-months-old and full of kisses and mischief. We are enjoying this new stage of her talking and playing more independently.

That's the update on our family. We would love to hear news from you. We welcome emails, snail mail and phone calls!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Frugal Finds: Using our resources wisely

This fall we've been thinking a lot about how to use our resources wisely and how to stretch our pennies. This has been partly out of necessity since Ericlee did not have a full-time job and because we were preparing for our move to Haiti. We have searched out a lot of ways to buy less, eat locally and seasonally and recycle items within our community of friends. This has helped a lot in saving money but also in teaching our girls the value of living on less and helping others.

On our other blog, I've been exploring new foods and creating new recipes to employ some of what we are learning in the area of health and wellness. A few of my mama friends are really frugal with coupons and online deals. I wish I had more time to run around town and take advantage of coupons but I have to choose my errands wisely now that we have one car (another choice in the journey to downsize).

One of my fave ways to save is through Groupon, a group coupon that comes out every day and offers amazing steals on restaurants, activities and more in Fresno. I've scored lots of discounts and even more than $200 worth of free stuff through that site. I only share the ones our family would use.

This year we wanted to continue some of our Christmas traditions but in a more economical way. For the third year in a row, I sold some of my knitted items at a boutique at our church. This helped pay our bills in December and gave us a small budget for the holidays.

Nathanael shows off the knitted pumpkin hat.
Giada poses in a knitted flap hat - perfect to keep little ears warm.
Fingerless gloves embellished with buttons

One of my fave Christmas traditions is writing (and receiving) Christmas cards. I got a great deal on LivingSocial - another coupon network - for some of our cards. We also love to create gifts that are more meaningful than just the latest toy or fashion statement. One tradition Ericlee started with his mom was to create a picture calendar each year. We love Shutterfly and use their online printing services frequently. Every year I make a photo book for my girls to celebrate their birthdays. This is my version of scrapbooking or making picture albums and an economical way to save the memories. The girls page through these books frequently. Giada is especially into these books and I finally got around to finishing her first year book, which will be under the Christmas tree this year.

This year Shutterfly also offered 50 free Christmas cards for including them in a blog. So, here's my shameless plug for Shutterfly. I found out about this from my friends Brandy and Marcy - two friends also on this journey of living in community and sharing more with the needy of the world. Marcy developed a Facebook group and blog called Living Hebrews 13:5 where our friends can give things away or look for used items. We have greatly benefitted from this circle of recycling new and used items.

Why worry about saving?

Sure, it takes more effort and some serious time making wise choices, but we think it's worth it. Not only does it help the wallet; it also helps grow our faith. If we put our faith in God to provide our needs, and then share more of our resources with others, we experience the blessing of giving. Sounds to me like the reason for the season.